The presidential election of 1844 was a critical turning point in the antebellum era. At stake was the controversial issue of Texas annexation, supported by the pro-expansionist Democrat James K. Polk and questioned by Whig Henry Clay. While historians generally accept the significance of the Texas issue, there is a lack of consensus over the importance of the anti-slavery Liberty Party in determining Clay’s narrow loss. Additionally, there is an absence of detailed research on Maine as a Democratic state within traditionally Whig New England. The Daily Argus, as a Democratic newspaper that represented Portland—the most populous part of Maine—provides insight into the expansionist fervor that swept across the state and was embraced by Democrats nationwide. The newspaper vividly explains Clay’s defeat through his continuous vacillation over Texas annexation throughout his campaign. The persistently vicious attacks on Clay reveal numerous explanations for his unpopularity in Maine. Simultaneously, The Daily Argus refutes the importance of the Liberty Party in Maine and, instead, emphasizes Texas annexation as the key issue that defeated Clay. Laura Ellyn Smith is currently a teaching assistant and doctoral student at the University of Mississippi, Arch Dalrymple III Department of History. She completed her MA in U.S. History and Politics at University College London, where she was awarded the Americas Excellence Award. She graduated with First Class Honors for her BA in American Studies with a Year Abroad from the University of Leicester. This article was written following her BA dissertation research conducted during her year abroad at the University of Southern Maine. She continues to follow her research interests in antebellum and Civil War-era America.
Smith, Laura E.. "Through the Eyes of the Enemy: Why Henry Clay Lost the Presidential Election of 1844 through the Lens of The Daily Argus of Portland, Maine." Maine History 50, 1 (2016): 58-78. https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/mainehistoryjournal/vol50/iss1/5